We all dream of it at some point or another don't we?
Escaping to a sacred mountain temple - somewhere remote, somewhere quiet
where we can meditate and get away from it all.
The stresses of the daily life, the stresses of social media and the news and everything
and that is exactly what we're gonna do today.
It's the brainchild of one man; this man.
Ryotaro: Alright so today - you know you've been so online recently, like on Twitter and Facebook
and of course YouTube, and it's too much interaction as well.
They get you to your answer to comments, and they go "it's just what you'll be doing"
You'll be too nice it's almost like.
Chris: Yes, I'm too nice!
Ryotaro: So I'm taking you to this temple; which is 1,200 years old
and then put you into this strict---very strict training; Yamabushi Mountain training
Ryotaro: Yeah, you will love it.
Chris: But before we get to the strict mountain training and the secluded mountain
we're first going to one of the best most critically acclaimed restaurants in all of Tohoku
because it's quite near the mountain
So---before things get strict they're first gonna get rather gluttonous indeed.
[Ravenous side glance]
The region we're visiting surrounds the town of Tsuruoka in Yamagata, about a 30-minute drive south of the town
I once lived in, where I worked as a teacher for three years, and I'll gladly admit it's a region
I miss living in for the scenery alone and for its somewhat mystical surroundings
thanks to the area's roots in the religions of Shintoism and Buddhism
but more on that later because first there's food to be had.
So this restaurant, the Ai. Ché-cciano, is owned by a chef called Mr. Okuda
and he was counted as one of the best hundred chefs in the whole world
Chris: in the whole world!?
Roytaro: in the whole world, yeah.
Chris: Born in Tsuruoka in 1969, Masayuki Okuda has prepared food everywhere
from the World Economic Forum
to even serving the Pope in 2012.
His reputation comes from his philosophy of carefully sourcing local ingredients
which had been selected to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the food - and for the local area itself.
In the case of the Ai. Ché-cciano restaurant, he's managed to fuse Italian style dishes
with ingredients within a 30 Kilometer radius of the kitchen; from the nearby mountains, to the Sea of Japan.
So our first course has arrived and it is
Flounder, the fish from the Sea of Japan, just about 10 Kilometres that way---
so all the food here's local, but it's the salt that's the really interesting thing.
The salt has been harvested on the night of a full moon
when the water changes current, apparently it's the best time to get the salt from the sea
and the thick large grains of salt---
accompany the Flounder rather well.
You wouldn't normally think of those kind of things
but it's that kind of consideration that goes into the food here that makes it such a critically acclaimed place
and now Ryotaro is gonna review it for us.
Ryotaro: You actually feel the salt because---
Chris: well I should hope so, it's harvested on the night of a full moon.
Ryotaro: So this is the salt; normal salt is finer and a smaller scale, but this salt comes in this size
and so when you actually put it in your mouth you should feel the salt.
Chris: You put the salt in your mouth and you feel the salt...you've put my food reviewing to shame.
Chris: Yeah - floundering review.
So we got our next dish; which is Fugu-infused risotto.
I think it's the first time I've ever had Fugu actually---
the Blowfish which can kill you, so it's the most dangerous risotto I've ever had.
It's got seven herbs on top which are there to
cleanse the palate before the main course.
Looking at this risotto makes me very happy because it reminds me of a comment that I read yesterday
(Laughing) about Ryotaro
"Why do we never see Natsuki and 'Risottoro' in the same video, do they hate each other?"
The reason you never see Natsuki and 'Risottoro' together is because they're actually the same person
with a severe case of split personality disorder---
One of them smokes 30 cigarettes a day and the other version is just bald
but all I know is your new name is 'Risottoro' from here on in.
(Laughs in Risottoro)
Chris: It seems rather fitting that after receiving this comment yesterday you're now---
Ryotaro: 'Risottoro' with a British accent, is that right?
(Laughing in Risottoro pt. 2)
Ryotaro: The blowfish!
is definitely really worth risking your life
because it's so good.
Chris: You heard it here first; straight from the mouth of 'Risottoro'
Ryotaro: Okay, so we now have pork, it's called Yamaguchi pork
yeah, it's a local pork 'grown' in this area
and it's plain and what's so special is that it's been matured and it almost tastes like dried ham
Chris: Serrano Ham?
Ryotaro: Serrano Ham, yeah.
It's charcoal-grilled too, so it's crispy on the surface and very juicy inside.
Chris: What about the Fish?
Ryotaro: It's Winter Cod.
Chris: Winter Cod---
Ryotaro: Since they caught the Cod in the Winter it's got a lot of fat in it so it tastes different---
Chris: The Cod actually changes flavour throughout the seasons?
Chris: That's quite cool, didn't know that!
Ryotaro: Well yeah, of course, you don't know anything. So anyway---
Chris: You know, numerous are the times that I've visited a restaurant that hasn't quite lived up to its reputation
Ai. Ché-cciano is not one of them.
It's not every day you get to go to a restaurant where so much thought goes into the ingredients.
The way they use sauce and the way it's prepared---
long will I cherish the memories of the Yamaguchi pork and the Blowfish 'Risottoro'...
...he doesn't look happy.
And now we are off to a mystical mountain to get rather spiritual isn't that right, Ryotaro?
Ryotaro: Yeah, we're going to see some ghosts
The shrine we're staying in rests on the sacred secluded peak of Mt. Haguro
and holds the record for having the thickest thatched roof in all of Japan
and that's a lot of alliteration...
but it's 2 meters thick because, despite being only 414 meters, Haguro receives a ridiculous amount of snow.
Just to give you a sense of scale to the snowfall they get here; look at this---
So Ryotaro how tall are you?
Ryotaro: Uh I'm...5'6" or something?
Chris: 5 foot six, 5 foot seven?
Chris: So that's at least twice your height - about 10 foot.
That's what they have to deal with here every winter, and then they have to deal with people like this coming
just to make things worse.
So this is the room I'm staying in in the temple, the key word here is 'cozy'
and that's because of the kerosene heater.
in Japan in winter you live and die by the grace of the kerosene heater.
Because it's 28 degrees in here it's lovely and warm and cozy, but out here---
It is a mere...fuck-all degrees Celsius, it's so cold.
You can see the snow falling out there a little bit, but if I go like that
you can see my breath, it's magical.
In there - nice and cozy
out here - it's like a fridge so let's get back inside.
So we've got the kerosene heater and the futon there with no less than three blankets to keep me warm
and then over here---
this is my favourite room
this is the room that I like to call the 'Tea Room'
come on in.
So you can sit here, enjoy your tea, watch a bit of television, and enjoy the second kerosene heater
which I haven't put on yet but I'm definitely gonna put on soon because it's absolutely freezing in here.
Because of the Shoji sliding doors; as beautiful as Shoji sliding doors are they're terrible insulators
and out here we've just got...well that's it basically
that's the edge of the temple.
in a way though the snow acts like an insulator itself because it piles up about a meter or two high
throughout the winter months and kind of helps insulate the building
but let's keep the door shut to keep warm.
That was pretty stupid on my part.
It's like a puzzle closing Shoji sliding doors is like an exciting puzzle - a puzzle which is very simple.
'Yamabushido' is the term used to describe the mountain aesthetic practiced by monks for over 1,500 years.
In recent times the secretive practice has opened up to anyone who's looking to detoxify themsevles
in a five-day practice held in the summer months; where participants live by a strict aesthetic
of Buddhist vegetarian cuisine
travelling in silence across mountains, forests, rivers, and even meditate in waterfalls.
It's overseen by Master Hoshino; probably the coolest looking man I've ever seen
and a 13th generation of his family to live as a Yamabushi priest.
However, given it's the winter months and the temperatures hovering around zero degrees,
we're gonna be practising for several hours.
Before we begin we asked master Hoshino to help define the concept of Yamabushido.
So here we are at the base of Haguro Mountain, and I'm dressed in this white costume
In Japanese it's literally 'Shiro Shozoku' right?
Ryotaro: Yeah, you pronounce it alright.
Chris: Good pronounciation there.
But it literally means white costume and this mountain
Haguro Mountain represents rebirth, and to be reborn you first need to be dead and in Japan at a funeral
the body is wrapped up in white cloth, and thus being wrapped up in white cloth
we're technically dead, metaphorically dead, not literally dead that would be---
Dead. Simply dead. Simply red? No, simply dead.
Why do we let him go anywhere near the camera?
So this is Takeharu and he's our guide for today
I'm wondering why can't we speak while we're going into the mountain?
What's the significance of not talking and being silent?
Takeharu: Because it's gonna be a training practice; if you think about things to say or talk
then you cannot be in the moment.
Chris: If you talk you can't be in the moment, so you can't appreciate the journey.
Okay, that makes sense, the only thing that worries me though
are there any bears in the forest?
Chris: You said that so confidently.
If I see a bear can I talk then?
(Sudden tortured piano sound)
from now on we will have
mountain trekking mediation session.
(Loud horn bellows and a bell chimes)
(No man made sounds except snow crunching under toe, and the sound of rushing water throughout)
Chris: At first it feels a bit odd---
travelling in silence, and in these temperatures all we can think of is how cold our feet are
especially if like me - you've forgotten to put on thick socks.
And as a phone addict
it's hard not to Google something about snow or to quickly gaze a Facebook notification
of an amusing cat video, but going deeper into the forest across bridges
with the sound of water gushing down, and waterfalls and along streams
and with the towering presence of cedar trees dating back over 500 years old
you really do just stop caring.
You learn that being silent is the only way to truly appreciate the surroundings and all of a sudden
I'm overcome with a sense of regret that I don't do this more often, that I've forgotten how
spectacular everything is when you stop and look around, just being in the present---
It's something I don't do often enough.
(Chanting in Japanese)
Takeharu: I used to work---
at an advertising agency in Tokyo, and I enjoyed the city life but
I found that something was lacking
in myself and
here I feel like part of
I used to think about the future
always what's next? what's next?
I can feel I'm in the moment.
Chris: Was it just me or was Hoshino-san - the dude with the beard
The coolest looking man in the world ever?
His face was the very definition of 'Bushido'
Ryotaro: Yeah, I think that how he looks---
I mean is quite rare for a Japanese person
I don't really see a person like that with a long beard with such an aura.
Chris: Just an exceptional face, really.
Ryotaro: And that's what I think is the kind of person that the Westerners
expect from a traditional Japanese person from Bushido
Chris: You know he's fulfilled my stereotype.
Ryotaro: Hello people who cannot eat meat, fish, eggs and dairy---
Welcome to the Vegan world!
Chris: Welcome to the Vegan world...
Ryotaro: Apologies for that...
Chris: That could be the name of your book - a really crappy book you've written.
Ryotaro: Yeah! "Welcome to the Vegan World" and your face on the front cover
But which is something that's happening for me today well
I've got rice, sesame, Tofu---
some bamboo and deep fried Tofu.
Chris: So nearly all the food here that we've got before us is from Haguro Mountain, the mountain we're on right now.
Because it's the winter season some of these foods have been preserved and kept in storage until now
but yeah, it's all from the mountain
It's pretty cool isn't it?
So we're in this big dormitory built on to the side of the temple and it's bit like 'The Shining'
because there's nobody else here at the moment.
We picked a day when there was not many other people around.
Ryotaro: Haven't seen anyone yet.
Chris: Haven't seen anybody else apart from the staff.
Ryotaro: I haven't seen The Shining, sorry.
Chris: It's basically; Jack Nicholson runs around with an axe and just tries to chop up his family.
Ryotaro: Thanks for the good explanation.
Chris: If you burst open the door with an axe tonight, I know to be worried.
Ryotaro: You know that film 'Gone with the Wind"?
Chris: What 'Gone with the Wind'?
Chris: What do you mean? Ryotaro: Yeah, there's a film.
Ryotaro: 'Gone with the Rice'
Chris: 'Gone with Rice'!
Chris: Ryotaro went to look for some staff because he wants more rice, and he can't find anyone.
In a massive building with a maniac with two strawberries and a fashionable haircut
Ryotaro: Desperate for rice.
Chris: After sleeping in a shrine, trekking through a forest of a sacred mountain, and eating rock salt harvested on the night of a full moon
it's all left me feeling rather rejuvenated - if you're having a midlife crisis,
or just want to escape from Civilisation for a few days
you can find out more about Yamabushido training in the description box below, and at the rate
I'm going I'm seriously considering doing it in the summer, but for now though guys as always; many thanks for watching
We'll see you next time!
Yeah! Go, go Risottoro!